Did any of your ancestors have patents for public land? Did they pay cash for the land, or did they receive it as a result of military service?
Some people obtained land through homestead acts. In 1785, the Continental Congress passed the Land Ordinance Act that authorized the Treasury Department to survey and sell public lands obtained from Native American nations. Funds from the sale of public lands were used by our federal government to fund projects and pay bills.
In 1812, the Treasury Department created the General Land Office to oversee the surveys of public lands and their sales. Fortunately for genealogists, detailed records were kept by the GLO, which is part of the Bureau of Land Management.
BLM has amassed more than 9 million land records that relate to the sales and grants of over one billion acres. More than 5 million of those documents have been digitized and placed online for researchers to use free of charge. The website is located at www.glorecords.blm.gov.
When the website opens, click on “Search Documents.” When the next screen opens, enter the name of an ancestor, the county and the state.
When I entered the name of an ancestor (Asa Carlin), county (Barry) and state (Missouri), the site listed several tracts of public lands that Asa obtained at the Springfield Land Office. Most were in section 17 and were ones for which he paid cash. In 1863, he was listed with George Tompkins on a patent document.
The digitized image 46299 shows that Sgt. George Tompkins received 80 acres through the Scrip Warrant Act of 1855. Tompkins received the land as a result of his service in Capt. Holmes’ Company Virginia Militia during the War of 1812. Tompkins assigned the land to Asa.
When checking tracts obtained by Asa’s brother Amos, I learned that most of Amos’s tracts were also obtained by cash. His earliest purchase was in 1848. An entry in 1860 listed him with Joseph Hall.
The digitized image 44085 shows that Amos received 79.30 acres in Section 19 as a result of Hall’s service in Capt. Landon’s Company Tennessee Militia. Hall assigned his land to Amos.
Another research approach is to enter the state, county and only the surname. This method provides information on land that was obtained by your ancestor as well as his relatives in the same county. It also provides dates on which the relatives moved to the area. The legal descriptions help determine the proximity of relatives to your ancestor.